Laura's Reviews > The Reapers are the Angels

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
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's review
Sep 03, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2011, zombie-by-any-name, plan-to-buy

Temple has made the best of her ragtag adolescence. Nomadic lifestyle, caring for Malcolm (her maybe-brother), and fighting the living dead.

I picked up this book because of the beautiful cover and the hauntingly cryptic title (It is a bible verse). I kept reading for the zombies and because of the quick and easy love the reader gets for Temple.

Bell uses beautiful, lyrical language to describe this torn up world full of danger, showing us why Temple thinks it is still so beautiful. Many apocalyptic horror books have characters discussing why or how this could have happened, and what it all means. Temple is more matter of fact, she shrugs her shoulders. After all, she was born ten years after it all changed. This isn't a broken world, this is just the world to her. And yeah, maybe there's a lot of bad, but she has sure seen some real good out there too.

In many ways, this novel reminded me of The Road, rather obviously for the apocalyptic road trip aspects, but also for the somewhat sparse writing. They both leave many things unanswered, but not unsatisfied, and they both show that one or two people's stories may not be all that important in the grand scheme of things. These two would be good read-alikes for a book club, especially as they are both short. I devoured this book in a weekend day, even though it is not at all my usual sort of book.

There is violence and gore, sex as well, but at no point did it feel exploitative or too much for me. There are plenty of moments of action and of tension, but they take a backseat to the character development and writing style; so much so that I feel strange characterizing it as horror, although I don't know what I would call it otherwise. There are some absolutely brilliant ideas that I (not being a big horror buff) hadn't been exposed to before, little things that seem natural like the creatures having regional nicknames. Temple calls them meatskins and slugs, another character flat out calls them zombies, and Temple is surprised to hear other characters have other names. The lack of infrastructure makes communication between humans difficult, but it is emphasized that there are a lot of humans in this world, a lot of food and resources left for anyone wily enough to get them. Ever since 28 days later, zombies in the media have gotten fast and smart and more terrifying, but these slow and stupid zombies work perfectly with showing how to someone like Temple, they are just a part of life that she wouldn't know how to live without.

All in all, Temple is a wonderful character that the reader wants to cling to and defend. As another reviewer said, her treatment of "the dummy" is a little hard to read sometimes, but I felt that her affection quickly shone through and the harsh words just reinforced her desire to have no attachments in this world that takes everything from you, sooner or later. The style of writing is so unusual from my usual that I had to force myself to read slower and be engulfed in the language, but once I did so, it was beautiful. The kind of writing that has you speaking and writing slightly strangely after wards. I think that is a sign of great writing.
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